TELENOR PAKISTAN: CONNECTING THE YOUNG

KASHIF HAFEEZ
July 16 - 22, 2007

Telenor Pakistan, probably the youngest mobile organization in Pakistan in terms of workforce the company has an average employee age of 27 has always tried to empower the youth. This spirit of youth empowerment is built into the framework of the organization. From recruitment to an honest culture, from egalitarian benefits across the board to candid employee feedback opportunities, from flat hierarchy to open seating, Telenor Pakistan is one company bent at utilizing the immense potential of Pakistani youth.

In the social sector, Telenor Pakistan has created innovative community support initiatives with the aim to help youth realize their dreams, wherever they might be. Some initiatives stand out:

DUA - Nurturing the young: The DUA project with the SOS Children's Villages of Pakistan aims at providing support (sustenance, education, shelter) for one hundred earthquake orphans and offering free communication services for the children to talk to their distant relatives in Azad Kashmir and NWFP. Telenor Pakistan has also equipped SOS emergency Search and Rescue staff with free connections and works with SOS Children's Villages of Pakistan at specific projects to raise funds for the innocent victims of the devastating earthquake of 8th October, 2005. More than 400 Telenor Pakistan employees have volunteered for the program, making it an unprecedented corporate volunteerism drive from young employees to support the younger generation.

Telecom Futures Training youth at the grass-root level: Telenor Pakistan and its industry partner, Nokia-Siemens Networks, realize that vocational training institutes are building young human capital from the lower socioeconomic classes and there is a huge opportunity to help them get their fair share from the Telecom Promise.

Telecom Futures is Telenor Pakistan's project with Nokia-Siemens Networks and Punjab's largest diploma-awarding Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA). The Telecom Futures program aims at building on TEVTA's Higher National Diploma in Telecom by aligning curriculum with industry expectations, providing advanced trainings and rewards to teachers, sharing specialized equipment with students, and offering internships or jobs to suitable diploma holders. TEVTA is managing 402 technical Institutions spread all over Punjab and providing technical, vocational and commerce education to approximately 100,000 students both male and female in Pakistan. Telecom Future's target is to deliver a scalable model for large-scale implementation, an education and training model that improves the level of young human resource created locally, and increases the employability of vocational diploma holders. The program has been so successful at TEVTA's Lahore and Attcok campus.

apnaPCO - Bridging the Digital Divide: Even with recent stellar growth in the telecom sector in Pakistan, a deep digital divide exists as majority of the rural populations at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum cannot afford to own phones. Therefore, rather than try a solution based on the traditional view of mobile telephony one person, one phone, one number the apnaPCO project pursues a strategy of shared, rather than personal, access to voice.

The project has been set up with support from the Development Fund of the GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade association for mobile phone operators. apnaPCO is the only GSMA-supported shared access to voice project in Pakistan, and by that account has tremendous positive implications for the local market and for Pakistan internationally. Telenor Pakistan has entered into an alliance with the National Rural Support Program (NRSP) for the roll-out of the project in the most impoverished rural areas of southern Punjab.

The project seeks to bring socio-economic benefits of telecommunication to select rural communities. The project also entails research in order to establish the market potential of the most remote rural populations for the mobile industry to consider. The project, which was initially rolled out in Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar districts, has shown solid business potential for local entrepreneurs and a healthy response from the targeted communities. apnaPCO project was formally launched on May 09th 2007. At present apnaPCO potentially provides coverage to 37,000 plus households in the area.

Sustainable Telecom Growth Connecting youth, technology and society: The demand for cellular telephony is predicted to keep growing in the years to come and with it the requirement from the cellular mobile operators to continually add capacity to their networks. For this purpose, the operators are investing heavily into expansion of the infrastructure of which the cellular phone base station antennas are the most visible part. Today just about everybody recognizes the poles and masts. Another feature of the tremendous cellular growth is the ever-expanding variety of mobile phones. Poles and phones they come in just about every shape and size and provoke debate, especially among the youth, about their environmental and health safety. Indeed, the youth has the right to ask questions from the industry about its impact on their environment. It is their future we are talking about.

It is Telenor Pakistan's belief that socially responsible companies in Telecom industry must roll out modern networks with a socially responsible approach, delivering on environmental and healthy safety standards. At the same time, they must recognize the need to address people's misperceptions of mobile phone towers or mobile phones being health hazards. The industry and the community must base its decisions on robust and internationally accepted scientific research. The myths must go, since they don't help anyone. With this intention the company has started a campaign to create awareness, encourage stakeholder dialogue and promote international research on the subject.

A seminar jointly supported by Telenor Pakistan and Nokia Pakistan and titled 'Cellular Infrastructure: A Socially Responsible Approach' jumpstarted the campaign late last year. Local and international speakers, policy makers and industry leaders spoke at the occasion.

The program concluded, "Based on the conclusions of the extensive body of independent research, there is no convincing scientific evidence of a health risk associated with either the proper use of mobile phones or with living near a base station," with policy makers committing to using international research in policy formulation.

Similar sessions and briefings have facilitated policy discussions at the national, provincial and local government level, leading to transparent regulations and solid civic standards for the industry. We hope the drive has also informed the Pakistani youth about the safety of modern networks.

All of the above initiatives for the youth of Pakistan grow from Telenor Pakistan's strong belief that their future is our responsibility.